Posted on June 2, 2009 by teampreston
Preface: I usually shy away from anthologies. Not that anthologies are inherently “bad” or anything…but it seems to me that the stories either grab you and then drop you off at the next corner, anxiously wanting MORE…or really just fail to snag you in the first place. Anthologies tend to cater to a wider variety of subjects/ interests and I know my own tastes tend to be more focused.
In spite of this, Tales of Heresy is focused enough to be fun for anyone interested in delving more in to the extremely popular Horus Heresy series.
Since each of the stories is independent, not really tying to one another in any way, I’m going to break down each short story within independently as well.
Blood Games by Dan Abnett
Here we get a good taste of what the Custodes are all about. Color me impressed! Yes, as expected…the Custodes are BAD ASS. Compare an Astartes to an Imperial Guardsman. No contest, the Astartes is far superior in every way. I think the same can be said of a comparison of a Custodes to your average Astartes. Bold bastards they are! I don’t want to give away too much here, but think of a warrior so confidant in their abilities, and so much apart from the rank and file that even Primarchs are simply “Dorn” or “Horus” instead of the reverent “Lord Primarch” or something of that nature. (Perhaps this is partly due to the hypno-training and gene-seed of Astartes as well as being the almost genetic offspring of their respective Primarchs that instills that sort of reverence in Space Marines. Hard to say as the “mere mortals” of the series also tend to be of the same reverent mindset. I digress…)
It’s nice to see politics and scheming on Holy Terra itself amid this whole saga. Imagine the massive brass of someone willing to play politics on Terra while the Emperor himself is present.
Overall…good story! I did get a little lost toward the end when things shifted a bit; I was left wondering “what the hell just happened?” and had to go back and re-read a bit in order to grasp the plot shift.
Rating: 3 of 5
Wolf at the Door by Mike Lee
“Buveye, Wolf Lord of the Space Wolves’ Thirteenth Great Company and Commander of the 954th Expeditionary Fleet, descended the ramp of the lead Stormbird with his senior lieutenants and the champions of his Wolf Guard in tow.” That alone should be enough to get your blood pumping. It’s really great to see these guys in action in this period. This is one of the stories I’d love to see much more of. Honestly, I’m not a fan of the Space Puppies at all (a big Thousand Sons fan myself) but Mike Lee really has them DOWN!
I can’t WAIT for Prospero Burns.
This is a brilliant little tale of unconventional warfare, Astartes-Style! I loved “seeing” the Space Wolves covered in mud and grime. Mike Lee gets the Space Marines down and dirty and fighting a hit and run battle and shows that even Astartes are breakable. It’s a very gritty tale that finishes strong and true to the “Grim Future” we all love and expect.
Rating: 4 of 5
Scions of the Storm by Anthony Reynolds
A Word Bearers tale that starts a little slow, but finishes strong. The slowness at the beginning is forgivable as the author is setting the tone for what was to come, and the events preceding the story (The Emperor pimp-slapping Lorgar for his continued religiosity) are HUGE.
We get to see the exact shift from absolutely fanatic loyalist to dire traitor in one short story and it’s beautiful to see. You really get the depth of emotion and a feeling of dread from the actions and reactions of the Primarch Lorgar and those around him (Note: the BL team has done a wonderful job in demonizing First Captain Erebus. You can’t help but hate that guy.) Overall it’s good, a little battle-heavy but still a fun read.
Rating: 3 of 5
The Voice by James Swallow
I was very pleased to see the return of the Sisters of Silence and Amendera Kendel. This is a sneaky and solid piece that really catches you unaware. In my opinion it’s one of the strongest pieces of the anthology.
Swallow captures the creepy Ghost Ship feel as well as illustrating the animosity between two powerful women as well as their zeal in dealing with “Heresy”. Actually at this period, the very term “Heresy” carries religious overtones that would almost seem out of place…but knowing a bit of the pre-history of the Sisters of Battle, Ecclesiarchy and Ordo Hereticus…you can somewhat see this coming (and it’s a beautiful/ terrible thing to behold). I won’t spoil it for you…just read it.
Rating: 4 of 5
Call of the Lion by Gav Thorpe
This tale does a fine job of illuminating the tragedy of the First Legion and most of the other Legio Astartes to a greater or lesser degree: The Legions were formed up on Terra and later reunited with their Primarchs, creating a divide between the Old School and the often favored New Breed of Astartes. This is an underlying theme that bridges almost all the Horus Heresy Space Marine novels and it is played out rather clearly here. I think part of the reason the contracts between Old and New Astartes is so stark in the First Legion: Dark Angels is due to a bit of paranoia within their Primarch Lion El’Jonson.
Of course there is more than a bit of arrogance and hubris on the part of the Calibanite Captain Belath and a bit of almost mamby-pamby softness to the Terran Captain Astelan which wouldn’t feel as such if the story were longer and detailed more of the hard-earned temperance of the latter.
It’s easy to see where all this is leading (and while Descent of Angels is my least favorite of the series so far, I still enjoyed it, and am now looking forward to Fallen Angels.)
Rating: 3 of 5
The Last Church by Graham McNeill
You can’t help but feel for Uriah Olathaire in this short story. The entire thing is like watching a train wreck. To a certain degree you know what’s coming, but you are still affixed to the scene, unable to break away, drawn in to the emotional web of the author.
I cannot express the power of this short tale. I will tell you that not one bolter round is expended. Still the message is gripping (as a matter of fact I just got stuck re-reading it yet again as I was writing this.)
Rating: 5 of 5
After Desh’ea by Matthew Farrer
Kharn and the War Hounds (World Eaters) meet Angron, their Primarch. Honestly, it seemed like a tale of HULK SMASH versus Kharn “You are my Primarch, I won’t fight you”. Fans of the World Eaters will likely love it. I couldn’t get the image of a bat-shit crazy Incredible Hulk/ Angron out of my head. It fits: I can’t deny that.
Rating: 2 of 5
Overall, I enjoyed the anthology. It was a good smattering of tales from all over the Warhammer 40,000 universe, set in the period of epic civil strife known forever as the Horus Heresy.
Overall Rating: 3 of 5
Review by Jeff Preston
Tags | warhammer